Shaw says Iowa renewable fuels are ‘hurting but hopeful’

By The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association | January 29, 2019

In the past year the biofuels industry faced several new challenges. Between the fight for year-round E15, small-refinery exemptions and more, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said Jan. 29 at the 2019 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit that 2018 was his toughest year yet working for the industry.

“With forces inside of EPA and the West Wing trying to convince President Trump to gut the RFS, there were months when I went to sleep wondering if a tweet the next day would undo the last 19 years of our work,” he said. “The other side never stopped trying to push President Trump into a so-called deal on the RFS. But our champions never wavered. Yes, we wanted year-round E15, but not at the cost of gutting the RFS.”

Shaw emphasized that despite the policy challenges, the biofuels industry fought hard and victory was won when President Trump announced Oct. 9 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that he had ordered the EPA to begin a rulemaking process for year-round E15.

“While the White House announced year-round E15 would be coupled with some RIN transparency reforms, those reforms will not impact RFS volumes,” Shaw said. “No point of obligation. No 10-cent RIN price cap. No RIN export scheme. Just year-round E15. In the midst of a very tough year, we really should take a moment to savor that victory.”

As 2019 ramps up, Shaw said the state of the biofuels industry is “hurting but hopeful.”

“Due to small-refinery exemptions and the China trade dispute, ethanol producers are facing a period of prolonged breakeven or negative margins the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years,” Shaw said. “And biodiesel producers are forced to sell their product based on Congress retroactively restoring the blenders tax credit. At the same time, Iowa biofuels producers are hopeful. We have ample feedstocks, efficient production capacity, and the ability to once again power the rural economy to prosperity.”

Shaw also noted that this year the industry will likely see the outcome of many pending lawsuits over small-refinery exemptions, the highly-anticipated E15 rule, the announcement of 2020 blend levels, a possible Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) reset rule, and more.

“Quite frankly, when you look at the plethora of issues on our plate that should come to a head this year, I will not be surprised if 2019 goes down in biofuels history as the most impactful year—for better or worse—since 2005,” Shaw concluded. “We may not like every answer we get. But I’m confident that 2019 can be a great year for biofuels and biofuels policy.”

 
 
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